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Seasonal hiring update finds retailers optimistic but cautious

Retailers added 147,800 positions in October.

Retailers added more seasonal hires this October than the same month last year.

Retailers approached October cautiously, but optimistically, adding 147,800 positions, a 3% increase from the 143,700 added in October 2022, according to a new analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Retailers are ramping up for the holiday season, and no doubt monitoring conditions to determine staffing ahead of the December holidays,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace and labor expert and senior VP of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

So far this season, large-scale seasonal hiring announcements, which Challenger has tracked since 2012, are lower than previous years. U.S.-based companies announced 573,300 seasonal positions in September and October of this year.  

While Challenger will continue to add seasonal hiring announcements from companies, as of now, the 2023 total is the lowest year for seasonal hiring announcements since 2013. That year, employers announced 518,000 seasonal hiring plans. By this point in 2022, Challenger had tracked 590,200 seasonal hiring plans, and in 2021, the firm tracked 939,200. 

Retail employment has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, but is lower than 2018, when 15,650,100 people were employed in the sector in October. This year, retail employment in October is 15,562,900, according to preliminary non-seasonally adjusted data from the BLS.

Transportation and warehousing added 63,600 positions in October. That’s down 27% from the 86,800 jobs added in the sector in October 2022.

“The pullback in transportation and warehousing may signal a strategic pause, as companies reassess their operational capacity and saturation in employment from the pandemic years,” said Challenger. “Recent labor disputes and negotiations may have also set back any potential hiring plans.” 

Transportation and warehousing, which saw record-high employment last December with 7,049,500, has fewer workers this October than in the same month in 2022. In October, the BLS reported 6,734,600 workers, down 25,300 jobs from October 2022.

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